The Nigerian musician displays emotional honesty on his new album The Brother’s Keeper, immersing listeners in soul-stirring tales of love and loss.
On Valentine's Day, before the pandemic fully erupted, Chike dropped his album, Boo of the Booless. It was his first expansive offering and, all throughout the album, Chike emoted and narrated stories with his silky voice. When the pandemic happened about a month later, forcing people into secluded corners of their homes, many held onto those stories. Word of mouth about the album continued until the end of 2020, and when album of the year conversations sprung up in polls and threads, there was always a staunch fan vouching for Boo of the Booless.
Chike, too, was unrelenting, extending the album’s shelf life through many dimensions. First he collaborated with some of Nigeria’s EDM producers by making dance remixes. There was also a live version of the album and, months into 2021, he called up songstress Simi to breathe upon one of the album’s standouts, “Running," a decision that earned Chike and the song a reintroduction into key African markets.
But now, Chike is done with that cycle and his latest album, The Brother’s Keeper, opens a new chapter for the love purveyor. Throughout the record's 49 minutes, Chike displays emotional honesty, slotting in sweet offerings of romantic attachment and documenting every step of its collapse. With soothing stories carried across a glossy, modern sound, Chike creates a balance of sweet and sour.
“I feel like for somebody to talk about love in a way that another person can understand, they have to feel love,” the singer says during a chat on a hot Saturday afternoon two weeks after the project’s release. “I've felt love, and even when I speak about pain, I've felt pain too.”
Below we caught up with Chike to discuss his new album, his takes on relationships, and his new passion.
ChikePhoto via ONErpm.
The Brother’s Keeper sounds like an album spurred by real-life lessons. What were some experiences that inspired this new album.
I could tell you that the second song, "Bad," came from a lesson I learned: to never to interfere in people's relationships. People would often come to you, complain to you, reveal issues they’re facing in their relationships and offer you the chance not only to advice them but also to decide their next course of action. In the end, no matter what you say, they go right back to their toxic partners by their own will. And the worst part is they tell their partner what you said about them. "Bad" is the song that talks about you keeping away from that kind of situation.
How would you describe your evolution from Boo of the Booless?
My sound is categorized by the stories I tell, at least that's the way I categorize it. That's the way I choose to categorize the way I approach music. I don't talk about my sound from the angle of what the instruments sound like. And because I listen to a broad range of music quite a broad one, any part of it can inspire you. I feel different ones, I dance to different ones. Of recent I put a description on all my social media platforms, I put "Afro stories." Because for the sound you could tell that I'm African for sure. And for me, I pay attention to stories. So between Boo of the Booless and my sophomore, I told more stories. I tried to write better stories and just hope people connect to them.
You’re a very strong storyteller, constantly singing from multiple perspectives. Where does your desire to tell complete stories come from? Was there a mood board for this album?
There's no emotional mood board, for me during that time I made this album I made sure that for every strong emotion I felt, I penned it down. I penned it down knowing that I would later pull from it at some point. So for every emotion, I felt I penned it down and I waited to be able to express it in a song. Was it the emotion of happiness, was it sadness, was it loss, was it love? I put all of it down and let it flow. I always also check the angle of the listener because I know my target audience and the kind of music that appeals to them. So I always try to make sure that even while I'm expressing myself, I'm able to communicate with the listener, that's always the primary goal for me
When exactly did you start recording for this new album?
The oldest song on the album is actually four years old. That should be "Zamo." At some point early this year my team and I just concluded I had to go into some kind of camping mode to make sure I wrap up the album. Which is what I did in order to be able to meet the date.
You have some great features on this album: Azana, Flavour and Ycee. How’d you connect with Ycee on "You Deserve"?
I mean, Ycee was the best person for the record, he delivered on it. “You deserve” is pretty much me letting somebody go to have a life that they deserve. A life I believe they deserve that I wouldn't be able to give them. Do you understand? It's just like, you having a diamond in the forest, I don't think that's the right comparison. That diamond can't do anything there in the forest. You need it somewhere it can be refined into something valuable, somewhere it can be placed and people can appreciate its worth. So “You Deserve” is literally a sound of sacrifice. It's just saying "oh baby girl right now, I'm gonna have to let you go." Not because I don't want you anymore, but because I know that you can get better than me.
What one life lesson would you tell anybody to take away from this album?
Don't advise two people who are in a relationship. Leave them alone.
So personally, what are you taking from The Brother's Keeper?
It's my second studio album, it's a lot. It means progress, for me. It's the best gift that I could give myself. I'm just being honest. Amassing certain emotions, certain feelings, or music in your head might be easy but it’s not easy to put it together, arrange it and bring it out. That's a different job entirely. And also, I would say I feel happy, I feel proud.
There’s a lot of vulnerability on the album—did you go through particular painful moments during the recording period of this album?
I feel, for somebody to talk about love in a way that another person can understand, they have to feel love. I've felt love, and even when I speak about pain, I've felt pain too. Maybe that's why I'm able to interpret it in a way that meets the pain points of listeners and also something they can enjoy. So that's pretty much it for me. I can interpret it because I've gone through those painful moments a couple of times at least.
The standouts here are multiple. Was there any song while recording this album that reminded you about someone?
I can tell you that it was "Spell." The second track on the album. I can tell you I've met someone who literally cast a spell on me not by any juju or anything but you know how you're fixated on someone and just know it's this person or nothing. I've told myself that kind of thing is not gonna happen but this person was able to do this to me so yes "Spell" is kind of personal.
Which song on this album felt the most like a puzzle, and how did you solve it?
"Bad." It was hard work. I wanted it to sound a particular way. So I kept shopping because I don't produce. Sometimes you can always direct with your mouth and say this is what I want to hear but the thing is the producer would need to connect with you to understand what you really want. So I could tell you that "Bad" got me shopping you know for that and I feel like I finally found it.
What’s a piece of relationship advice you’d give to anyone right now?
Respect your partner. Don't embarrass your partner, that's pretty much it. Just respect them, there is other advice, but immediately you can respect your partner. Trust me a lot of things fall on that respect a lot. A lot of things you wouldn't do, a lot of things you would do just because you respect your partner. So you respect your partner and don't embarrass them because this world now is just embarrassing.
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